Jan 29, 2015
Exercise, Rinse, and Repeat

By Patrick Bohn

While there’s already research showing that taking in carbohydrates are an important part of improving athletic performance, a new study published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care shows that even rinsing your mouth with a carbohydrate solution during exercise can have the same effect.
An abstract of the study can be found here.

Ingesting carbohydrates during long workouts can help athletes because it provides an alternative “fuel” for the muscles, which normally use the body’s glycogen to in exercise or competition. Although some earlier studies had shown that drinking carbohydrates during workouts lasting an hour or less could improve performance by up to 14%, other research contradicted that. But when Asker Jeukendrup, an exercise physiologist at the University of Birmingham and colleagues, asked bicyclists to rinse with carbohydrates prior to biking as hard as they good for an hour, they discovered that those bicyclists outperformed a control group that used water. Other researchers confirmed the results in runners.

Apparently, when athletes rinse their mouth with carbohydrates, oral sensors alert their brain to their presence, which then relays a message to the muscles to continue working.

“You can get an advantage from tricking your brain,” Matt Bridge, a senior lecturer in coaching and sports science at the University of Birmingham in England told the Times. “Your brain tells your body, ‘Carbohydrates are on the way.’ ” And with that message, muscles and nerves are prompted to work harder and longer.”

However, there’s some debate over the practical application of this finding, Scott J. Montain, an exercise researcher at the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, told the Times.

“Endurance competitors are better off just consuming the calories instead of sipping and then spitting out expensive, sticky spit,” he said.

Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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